Monday, April 6, 2009

Science Fair in Balboa Park

The boys and I took off from Pine Valley shortly before 2 PM to check out the Science Fair in Balboa Park. (To see the official website, click here: Science Fair.) Usually, a trip to the park takes 45 minutes or so, but once we rounded the interchange from I-8 to 163 South, we were in the weeds. Bumper-to-bumper, edging forward two feet at a time, all the way up the hill from Mission Valley Ugh! After slowly making our way past the University exit, I gunned the van up onto the Washington offramp and onto University near Tenth. Where we found more bumper-to-bumper, all the way up University and all the way down Park Blvd to the San Diego Zoo parking lot, where we slid beautifully into a space right in front. It took us longer to get to the park from 163 than it did the 45 miles from Pine Valley to 163. But once we found our primo parking spot, we unloaded my electric scooter (much more fashionable and useful than my wheelchair), and buzzed on over from the zoo lot to Balboa Park. We entered the Science Fair just beside the Natural History Museum and immediately ran into (fortunately not literally, which could definitely happen with my snazzy scooter) two homeschooling families from church.

We found the area extremely crowded, and even edging the scooter forward provided a challenge. But very soon we found ourselves by the Botanical Garden where we located T's passion: robotics! Yes, SPAWAR had several robots on hand, including one that be-bopped around on its own, avoiding all the wandering feet but somehow managed to run right into my stationary scooter just as I was snapping a cool photo of the boys. But the icing on the robotic cake was the robot that could pick up IEDs, used in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than human bomb experts. Not only was this robot cooler than cool, but the boys were able to control it. The objective: pick up a soft oblong thing (rather like a glasses case) with the robotic arm. All three boys had their chance and the smiles on their faces were priceless. T, age 14, is now convinced more than ever than engineering will be his "thing."

His engineering mind was confirmed at the next booth, one that was supporting African American engineers. The goal: build a "boat" from a square of aluminum foil and then float it in a tub of water. Then comes the hard part: load it up with weighted paperclips. T got his pretty darn close to completely full, and B (age 9) did a bang-up job as well. In fact, on the guy's encouragement, they went back and designed a second boat each, now keeping in mind water displacement, etc. J also built a boat or two, but he was around the corner and I really couldn't get the scooter at the right angle for photos. The boys spent over an hour between the robotics and the foil boats booths, definitely the highlight of the fair for our boys.

As the afternoon progressed, the crowds thinned, and we were more able to get around and take peeks at booths for LegoLand, the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Herpetologists (sp?), Bug Art, Mad Science, Pro-Natura's Microlife Discovery Center, San Diego County Water Authority, and San Diego Mensa where the boys were stumped over how to make four equilateral triangles with only six toothpicks. We also stood in line at the SDG&E booth to get their free lo-flo shower heads and cool green shopping bags (fewer wasted plastic and paper bags!). As six o'clock rolled around, we decided to make a break for home. The Science Expo was a wonderful way to spend a gorgeous spring day, and a very educational one to boot.

For close-up photos of the robots and the park, check out my photo blog: Susanne365


CC said...

We were there, too! Jeff and I were saying it seemed like everyone in San Diego county was there. If we had stayed there just a little longer we might have gotten to see you. We left around 2:30. We spent our time in front of the SDMA checking out science in art. Since the crowd was so dense, we decided it was too risky for Caroline and headed out to Blick's in Little Italy.

Susanne Barrett said...

We love Blick's -- my favorite art store. :) Sorry we missed you!


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